Skip to content

FEMA IS-33: FEMA Initial Ethics Orientation Course Summary

A Message From Administrator Fugate on Annual Ethics Training (Transcript)

Hi, I’m Craig Fugate, Administrator at FEMA, and I’m a firm believer that FEMA runs best when each of us acts in an ethical manner. As public servants, we have an obligation to promote the confidence in the public in the integrity of our decisionmaking.

Government agencies that make ethical decisions as part of their DNA have the highest morale and are the best run organizations. So I expect all FEMA employees to incorporate ethics into their decisionmaking when contemplating or taking actions on behalf of the agency. This agency will incorporate the values of transparency, integrity, and accountability in everything we do. These aims are among our highest priorities for FEMA.

To help in this effort, all current FEMA employees will attend ethics training each year to refresh their familiarity with the Federal ethics rules and regulations. Also, all new FEMA employees including our Disaster Assistance Employees and Local Hires are required to attend initial ethics training as part of their in-processing with FEMA.

I expect managers to support the agency’s ethics program, and to ensure that they and their employees file their financial disclosure forms in a timely manner, attend ethics training, and promptly seek ethics advice when you’re in doubt.

We expect all managers to be role models by complying with Federal ethics rules and regulations, and not tolerating those who do not comply with these rules. I want managers to acknowledge and reward ethical behavior by our staffs, and I will not tolerate unethical behavior. At FEMA we do not retaliate or punish “whistle-blowers” and I hold managers accountable to ensure that.

Ethics is an essential part of how we operate here at FEMA, and I’m proud to be part of this team. But also as emergency managers, we have more obligations. That is to protect the interest of the entire community, particularly the most vulnerable: children, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. As emergency managers we also need to act responsibly as stewards of Federal funds. As emergency managers we must avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, favoritism, or the lack of impartiality. And as emergency managers we will promote an all-hazard preparedness to include mitigation. As emergency managers we will work towards consensus whenever possible among all of our stakeholders, and as emergency managers we will never stop seeking to educate ourselves, to enhance our skills and knowledge to better serve the public.

As part of FEMA, we have many responsibilities, but our highest responsibility is to each other. We have to be honest and forthright, and have not any questions about our abilities to serve the public because we may have been seen or have implied that we were not ethical in our decisionmaking. This is a core value that we cannot ignore. We must be, and at all times, transparent, we must always be credible, we must always be fair in dealing with our partners. Thank you. Close

New FEMA Ethics Initiative

FEMA has enacted a new initiative to provide easier access to Ethics Counselors.

Ethics Counselors are being distributed throughout FEMA and across the country at every level of operations, making ethics advice, ethics counseling, and ethics training more accessible and responsive to the entire organization. Additionally, providing ethics counseling is another way that FEMA’s legal professionals can engage FEMA employees, and FEMA employees can engage the Agency’s legal professionals.

Select this link to access the memorandum from Brad J. Kieserman, Chief Counsel, addressing this new initiative.

Course Welcome

Welcome to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Ethics Orientation. The format of this Web-based course mimics an interactive TV show. Imagine you have tuned on The Ethics Show featuring news, expert advice, and participation by you as an audience member. Prudence, the Ethics anchorwoman, will be your guide.

Screen Features

Navigating Using Your Keyboard

Below are instructions for navigating through the course using your keyboard.
  • Use the “Tab” key to move forward through each screen’s navigation buttons and hyperlinks, or “Shift” + “Tab” to move backwards. A box surrounds the button that is currently selected.
  • Press “Enter” to select a navigation button or hyperlink.
  • Radio ButtonsUse the arrow keys to select answers for multiple-choice review questions or self-assessment checklists. Then tab to the Submit button and press Enter to complete a Knowledge Review or Self-Assessment.
  • Warning: Repeatedly pressing Tab beyond the number of selections on the screen may cause the keyboard to lock up. Use Ctrl + Tab to deselect an element or reset to the beginning of a screen’s navigation links (most often needed for screens with animations or media).
  • Job Access With Speech (JAWS) assistive technology users can press the Ctrl key to quiet the screen reader while the course audio plays.

Receiving Credit

Each lesson takes a variable amount of time to complete. If you are unable to complete the course in its entirety, you may close the window and reopen the course at any time. However, depending on the system used to take the course, it is possible you may have to repeat a portion of the last lesson you were studying. Students must complete the entire course and pass the final exam to receive credit for the course.

Course Objectives

The rest of this introductory lesson and the first episode of The Ethics Show will provide an overview of Government ethics (also referred to as standards of conduct).

After completing this lesson, you will be able to do the following:

  • State the purpose of Government ethics rules.
  • Describe how the FEMA Ethics Office can assist you.

Target Audience for This Course

This course is designed for all FEMA employees, including disaster workforce reservists. There are additional ethics requirements for all appointees (i.e., non-career Presidential or Vice-Presidential appointees, non-career appointees in the Senior Executive Service, and Schedule C positions). If you are an appointee, you will receive an additional briefing from the FEMA Ethics Officer.

Select this link to review the requirements for appointees set forth in Executive Order—Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel (January 2009).

The FEMA Ethics Office

Violating ethics rules may lead to criminal prosecution, fines, or administrative action, including possible loss of your job.

The Ethics Office functions as your shield against disciplinary action. Protect yourself by contacting the FEMA Ethics Office in the following situations:

Ethics Officials represent the Government when giving ethics advice and do not establish a confidential attorney-client relationship with FEMA employees. They are obligated to report misconduct and disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption.

Contact the FEMA Ethics Office

Remember, if you need advice or have a question, you can contact the FEMA Ethics Office by phone, email, or in person.

Select this link to access a current contact sheet for the FEMA Ethics Office.

FEMA Ethics Office

Room 840

500 C Street SW

Washington, DC 20472

(202) 646-3664 (voice)

(202) 646-3958 (fax)

[email protected]

Lesson Summary

Here is a recap of this episode’s highlights.

The ethics rules are a set of guidelines to help you make ethical decisions and avoid violating Federal laws.

Ethics rules are designed to ensure that you perform your mission for the public interest, not private gain, so that the public has confidence in the integrity of Government operations.

Contact the FEMA Ethics Office when you have questions, would like ethics advice, or suspect an ethics violation. Good faith reliance on ethics advice can shield you from disciplinary action if you have made full and accurate disclosure of the facts.


You have completed the course introduction.

Select this link for more information on how to contact the FEMA Ethics Office.


A conflict of interest occurs when your personal financial interests overlap with your official responsibilities. This lesson will explain the statutes and rules related to conflicts of interest.

After viewing this segment of The Ethics Show and completing this lesson, you should be able to do the following:

  • State the rules governing the following:
    • Financial conflicts of interest
    • Representing non-Government parties to the Government
    • Accepting compensation other than Government pay for performing or not performing official duties
  • Explain how to resolve conflicts of interest.
  • Recognize situations involving conflicts of interest and loss of impartiality.

Resolving Conflicts of Interest

If you believe something you are about to do may be a conflict of interest, contact your Ethics Official before you act to determine the appropriate remedy.

Possible remedies include the following:

Covered Relationships

The rules on impartiality apply to a larger group of your associates than the rules governing conflicts of interest. To maintain your impartiality, obtain ethics advice before participating in any FEMA matter involving those in a “covered relationship” with you, including any of the following:

  • Members of your household or close relatives
  • Someone with whom you have or seek to have a business relationship
  • An organization other than a political party in which you actively participate
  • Someone with whom you had a close business relationship within the last year
  • Someone with whom your spouse, parent, or dependent child has or seeks to have a close business relationship

Bribery, Outside Compensation, and Workplace Sales

The rules on conflicts of interest prohibit Government employees from engaging in the following activities:

The ethics rules also prohibit supervisors and managers from making sales to subordinates.

Lesson Summary Part 1

Here is a recap of this episode’s highlights.

Financial Conflicts of Interest

Do not work on a particular matter that could affect your financial interests or those of your spouse, minor children, business partners, current and prospective employers, or organizations in which you have management authority.

If you believe you have a conflict of interest, consult your Ethics Official to determine the appropriate remedy: disqualification, waiver, rejection of offer, resignation, or divestiture.

Loss of Impartiality

Always act with fairness and guard against the appearance of favoritism.

Lesson Summary Part 2


Do not represent anyone other than the Government to a Federal agency or court on a particular matter involving the Government.

Salary Supplementation

Do not accept any compensation from a non-Federal source for doing your Government job.


Do not seek or accept anything of value, other than your Government pay, for being influenced in performing or not performing your official duties.

Workplace Sales

Do not solicit or make solicited sales to personnel junior to you in rank, grade, or position, or to their families.


You have completed the lesson on conflicts of interest.

Select this link for more information on how to contact the FEMA Ethics Office.


This lesson will focus on the use and misuse of Government position, resources, and time.

After viewing this segment of The Ethics Show and completing this lesson, you should be able to do the following:

  • State the rule on using a Government position for private gain.
  • State the rule on endorsing products or services.
  • Recognize situations involving misuse of Government position.
  • Recognize situations involving misuse of Government resources.
  • Distinguish between acceptable and prohibited fundraising activities.


The Combined Federal Campaign and OPM-approved disaster relief are the only fundraising activities permitted in the workplace. Food, clothing, and toy drives require FEMA Ethics Office and management prior approval.

All other fundraising is considered personal and may not take place in the Federal workplace. You may fundraise on your personal time outside the workplace as long as you observe the following rules:

  • You may not use your official title, position, or authority to fundraise.
  • The fundraising must not interfere with the performance of your official duties or those of your fellow workers.
  • You may not solicit funds from subordinates or contractors.

Lesson Summary

Here is a recap of this episode’s highlights.

You may not use, or permit the use of, your Government position, title, or any authority associated with your office to do any of the following:

  • Induce or coerce anyone to provide a benefit to you or anyone with whom you are affiliated.
  • Promote private gain for yourself or anyone else.
  • Imply that FEMA or the Government endorses non-Federal activities.
  • Endorse any non-Federal product, service, or enterprise, except as provided by statute or regulation.

You may not use nonpublic information to further anyone’s private interests.

You may not use Government property or time for unauthorized purposes or ask your subordinates to perform tasks outside their official duties.


You have completed the lesson on misuse of position and resources.

Select this link for more information on how to contact the FEMA Ethics Office.


This lesson will focus on the rules for soliciting and accepting gifts from outside sources and for gift exchanges between employees.

After you view this segment of The Ethics Show and complete this lesson, you should be able to do the following:

  • State the rule on soliciting or accepting gifts from outside sources.
  • List acceptable ways to handle prohibited gifts.
  • Recognize when gifts between FEMA employees are appropriate.

Examples of Prohibited Sources

Determining if an entity is a prohibited source when dealing with gifts can be difficult; if you’re unsure, please check with the Ethics Office.

For example, in an election year, FEMA political appointees are subject to additional gift restrictions pursuant to Presidential Executive Order 13490 involving gifts from lobbyists. Some FEMA contractors and non-federal stakeholders are registered lobbyists with Congress.

If you’re unsure, please check with the Ethics Office.

Select this link to access examples of each of the five types of prohibited sources in relation to receiving gifts.

Rules on Official Travel

And now, a word from our sponsor, the FEMA Ethics Office.

You may keep frequent flyer miles awarded for official travel funded by the Government.

You may also keep promotional items that compensate you for volunteering to be bumped from a flight, but not items that compensate you for being bumped involuntarily.

If anyone other than FEMA offers to pay any travel expenses (transportation, lodging, or meals), consult a FEMA Ethics Official before you accept the benefits

Lesson Summary

Here is a recap of this episode’s highlights.

You may not solicit or accept gifts given by a prohibited source or because of your Federal position or duties.

You may accept any of the following:

  • Gifts of $20 or less
  • Gifts based on non-Government employment or personal relationships
  • Invitations to widely attended gatherings
  • Gifts from foreign governments below certain dollar limits

You may not give gifts to anyone senior to you or accept gifts from anyone junior to you in the chain of command, except to recognize special, infrequent events and certain occasions where gifts are traditionally given or exchanged.


You have completed the lesson on giving and accepting gifts.

Select this link for more information on how to contact the FEMA Ethics Office.


This lesson will focus on the rules for outside employment and activities, including paid and volunteer work. It will also summarize the provisions of the Hatch Act, which limits the partisan political activities of Government employees.

After you view this segment of The Ethics Show and complete this lesson, you should be able to do the following:

  • State the general rule on engaging in outside employment and activities.
  • Recognize permitted and prohibited activities under the Hatch Act.

Employment Issues

Consult your Ethics Official if you have questions when seeking non-Federal employment.

If you plan to moonlight, you may not work on a particular matter that will affect the financial interests of a current or prospective employer.

If you plan to leave Federal service, you must adhere to the rules on working in the private sector after Government employment. See “Post-Government Employment” on the FEMA Ethics Office intranet site (available only behind the FEMA firewall).

The Hatch Act

The Hatch Act limits the partisan political activities of Federal employees. Most civilian employees may actively participate in political campaigns and other partisan political activities, but not while in uniform, or in any Government workplace or vehicle. Federal employees may not be candidates for public office in partisan elections or solicit or receive political contributions. FEMA does have a special exception to allow our Disaster Assistance Employees (DAEs) to be candidates for public office.

Federal laws further restrict the political activities of certain employees including career and non-career SES employees, Schedule Cs and political appointees. DHS policy further requires all DHS political appointees, including FEMA appointees, to obtain prior permission before passive attendance at any partisan political event including campaign and fund raising events.

If you plan to engage in any partisan political activity, consult your Ethics Official. For more information, visit the Office of Special Counsel Web site. (

The Hatch Act and Election Years

Since 2012 is an election year, employees need to be especially aware of the Hatch Act.

As discussed earlier in the unit, the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 7321 – 7326, restricts Federal employee involvement in partisan political activity. Violation of the Hatch Act may result in removal from Federal employment or a suspension, without pay, of not less than 30 days. There are three different classes of employees under the Hatch Act:

  • Career SES, Administrative Law Judges, Administrative Appeals Judges, and those who serve on the Contract Appeals Board are the most restricted group.
  • Non-career SES, Schedule C, and most other employees are in the moderately restricted group. This group may participate in certain partisan political activity, but only in a purely private capacity.
  • Presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed Personnel (PAS) are the least restricted group. PAS employees are subject to some restrictions, but they are less constrained in terms of where and when they can engage in political activities because of their 24-hour duty status.
  • All FEMA political appointees, including Schedule C employees, are subject to DHS policy that prohibits DHS political appointees from participating in any partisan political activity, even in their private capacity, but they may attend a partisan political event as observers only (passive attendance) only with prior approval of the DHS Deputy Chief of Staff (request through the DHS Ethics Office).

See for additional information and guidance concerning the Hatch Act Rules or contact your Ethics Official.

Lesson Summary

Here is a recap of this episode’s highlights.

You may not engage in outside employment or activities that conflict with your ability to perform your official duties. The Hatch Act limits the partisan political activities of Federal employees. You may vote and campaign in partisan elections. You may also hold nonpartisan office. You may not do any of the following:

  • Be a candidate for or hold a partisan political office, except for FEMA DAEs.
  • Solicit or receive political contributions.
  • Engage in partisan political activity while on duty or in Government workplaces or vehicles.

Certain FEMA employees are further restricted from engaging in political activities.

The United States Office of Government Ethics has additional quick reference guides available on post-employment rules.


You have completed the final lesson of your Ethics Orientation. If you have an ethics question or concern, would like more information, or to request training, contact the FEMA Ethics Office.

Select this link for more information on how to contact the FEMA Ethics Office.